Motorsport: Barry primed for 'Monte' tilt
While most competitors are making plans to work off the excesses of the festive season, two Irish crews are already limbering up for the Monte Carlo Rally on January 22.
Wicklow's Daniel Barry and Wexford rally legend Eamon Boland are each making the trip to the French Mediterranean for the first big international stage rally of the new year, where the established regulars of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge will be joined by a host of one-off and occasional series competitors.
While it is not currently a part of the world championship, the 'Monte' still carries iconic status as the first round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, and Renault F1 star Robert Kubica will renew his love affair with rallying at the wheel of a Renault Clio. Early 90s F1 racer Alex Caffi is another circuit-racing convert on the entry list, while former world rally champion Petter Solberg will join his brother Henning in a bid for success.
Joining them on the start list will be Barry, who is partnered in his trusty Evo 9 Mitsubishi by Meathman Martin Brady. This will be their second visit to Monte Carlo. Last year they recovered from early gearbox problems to finish 20th overall, one place behind Boland, who is set to make his sixth appearance in the event.
The Tarmac star has combined international expeditions with local championship challenges in a long career and has once again prepared meticulously for what will be his second Monte outing in a Group N car.
Boland tested his Dom Buckley-prepared Mitsubishi Evo 10 before Christmas and is set for another test outing before heading to Monaco with co-driver MJ Morrissey.
Meanwhile, Valvoline has been announced as the new title sponsor for the National Forestry Rally Championship.
The six-event series gets under way with the Sean Conlon Rally in Tipperary on February 13.